Global Investing

Act now or forever hold your (b)-piece, Obama

February 11, 2010
It appears the penny has finally dropped in Washington. Bank bailout watchdog Elizabeth Warren, chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel, has unveiled a report that outlines the shocking state of the U.S. commercial mortgage sector, which left unaided could spark “economic damage that could touch the lives of nearly every American”. The Havard Law School Professor and her panel colleagues are talking the kind of apocalyptic language that may just shake the White House and its star policy advisers into facing problems we have now rather simply obsess about those we may or may not encounter in the future. The global banking system may well need some kind of Volcker-esque guidelines to curb the next generation of excessive risk-takers but Obama is putting the cart before the horse in his efforts to haul the economy back on track. Certainly, his and the previous administration has toiled long and hard to stabilise the U.S. housing market, propping up Fannie and Freddie and their dysfunctional offspring, but the subprime mess has distracted attentions from the toxic commercial market, where the clean-up task is no less important. Warren reckons there is about $1.4 trillion worth of outstanding commercial real estate loans in the U.S that will need to be refinanced before 2014, and about half of them are already “underwater,” an industry term that refers to loans larger than the property’s current value. But bank brains are wasting too much time figuring out how the so-called “Volcker rule” might affect their operations and future profitability, instead of getting their arms around underwater real estate loans that could break their institutions in two long before the anti-risk measures even take hold. Obama’s premature challenge to their investment autonomy, which he says cultivated the collapse of banks like Lehmans, is like suturing a papercut while your jugular gapes wide open. Maybe now, as Warren’s report hammers home the threat posed by unperforming commercial real estate debt, Obama will give Wall Street a chance to refocus on the “now” and worry about “tomorrow”, tomorrow.

It appears the penny has finally dropped in Washington.

from Summit Notebook:

Private bankers chanting new mantra

October 7, 2009

Private bankers still getting their ears bashed from clients enraged about massive portfolio losses now are chanting a new mantra.

from MacroScope:

Lehman plus 365 – and interactive

September 9, 2009

The anniversary of Lehman Brothers' collapse on September 15 will doubtlessly bring with it vast numbers of stories about what it all meant. It was, after all, the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history, a marker for the near collapse of the financial system and the trigger for government to pump trillions of dollars into economies to stave off another Great Depression.

from Davos Notebook:

Hank Paulson is not Gavrilo Princip, Lehman is not the Archduke Franz Ferdinand

January 29, 2009

Was letting Lehman go down the biggest mistake of the crisis? Many, including George Soros in the Financial Times, have argued that letting Lehman go down sowed panic to markets, consumers and businesses.

What do you think of the ‘Paulson Doctrine’ ?

September 17, 2008

Some financial firms, but not all, will be saved. The pattern was set with Bear Stearns in March and repeated with Fannie,  Freddie and AIG this month — but not Lehman Brothers. Information Arbitrage lays it out this morning here.